Tesla Model X prototype in Culver City, California [photo by Instagram user jmtibs]Enlarge Photo
Each of its two previous models came to market later than projected, and now the third vehicle from Tesla Motors--the Model X electric crossover utility vehicle--may slip a bit more too.
At least that's the expectation of Adam Jonas, the financial analyst from Morgan Stanley who's an avid follower of the Silicon Valley electric-car maker.
Jonas frequently comments on the company, its earnings reports, announcements by CEO Elon Musk, and of course the effects of all of that on its stock price.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, demonstrating the Model X third-row seat and falcon doorsEnlarge Photo
In a note sent to investors last Thursday, covered by USA Today the following day, Jonas said there was a "reasonable risk" of a "slight delay" in Model X deliveries, which he suggested may not start until next fall.
Jonas pointed out that Tesla had not confirmed this delay, and he continues to believe that the Model X will be a product that goes "dynamite fishing" in the premium SUV segment.
The Tesla Model X has already been delayed a number of times.
When it was first unveiled in February 2012, buyers could put down deposits for Model X deliveries, which were then planned to start with the first 1,000 Signature Series cars in December 2013.
Tesla Model X at 2013 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
Deposits for the Signature Series cars were $40,000, while conventional Model X versions to be delivered later required a $5,000 deposit.
'Slight' one-year delay
A year later, in March 2013, the first-delivery date was pushed out a full year, to December 2014.
The news came via a note in a required Tesla earnings filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission in which the company wrote, "Tesla has decided to slightly push back the development and timing of Model X to 2014."
News stories at the time questioned the use of "slightly" for a full-year delay in the scheduled deliver date.
MORE: Tesla Model X Electric Crossover Pushed Back A Year To Late 2014 (Mar 2013)
Then in February this year, CEO Musk hedged a bit further, saying that deliveries would actually start in March 2015.
And since then, very little has been heard about the Model X.
Unusually for a car whose pre-production builds will have to start in just a few months, the final version that will go on sale hasn't even been shown.
2014 Tesla Model X all-electric crossover with 'Falcon Doors' openEnlarge Photo
Rumors seem to indicate Tesla will unveil the final Model X before the end of this year.
The last news of any consequence on Tesla's electric crossover utility came when a prototype was photographed during road tests in Southern California.
Musk recently noted on an earnings call that the vehicle's unusual "falcon wing" lifting and folding rear doors have complicated the schedule.
He noted ruefully as an aside that the company's engineers had learned an enormous amount about the seemingly mundane topic of door seals.
While the falcon doors are one potential source of delay, another may simply be achieving the required electric range ratings for the Model X.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013Enlarge Photo
The electric SUV is larger and heavier, and has a much larger cross-section, than the Model S 'D' all-wheel-drive version launched last week. All those factors impact range, especially due to aerodynamic drag at highway speeds.
There's also no indication thus far that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is willing to grant Tesla an exemption to its current door-mirror regulations.
No video 'mirrors'
The company wants to use tiny video cameras to show the same view as in a mirror, but on small video displays inside the car--reducing the substantial wind resistance generated by door mirrors at speed.
Range ratings for the Tesla Model S are 218 or 208 miles for the entry 60-kilowatt-hour version, and 275 or 265 miles for the 85-kWh models (with and without all-wheel drive, respectively).
The all-wheel-drive 85-kWh Model X will likely need to offer at least 250 miles of range. We wonder if that's proving to be a challenge.
We reached out to Tesla Motors early on Friday; the company has not responded to our inquiry.